Laura Spencer

Arts Reporter

Laura Spencer caught the radio bug more than a decade ago when she was asked to read a newscast on the air on her first day volunteering for KOOP, the community radio station in Austin, Texas. 

After moving home to Kansas City, she learned the fine art of editing reel-to-reel tape as an intern and graduate assistant with the nationally syndicated literary program New Letters on the Air. Since 2001, she's focused her efforts on writing and producing feature stories as KCUR's Arts Reporter. 

In 2011, Laura was one of 21 journalists selected for USC Annenberg’s seventh National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater. She's received awards from the Associated Press, Kansas City Art Institute (Excellence in Visual Art and Education), Kansas City Association of Black Journalists, Missouri Broadcasters Association, Radio-Television News Directors Association (regional Edward R. Murrow Award) and Society for Professional Journalists. 

Ways to Connect

courtesy: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

This Monday, August 21, the moon will cover the sun in a rare total solar eclipse across a 70-mile path of the United States.

The eclipse starts at 11:40 a.m. and reaches totality around 1:06 p.m. in parts of Kansas and Missouri. 

Photo courtesy of RBerteig via Flickr

Get ready for a traffic jam. 

Across the United States, millions of people plan to travel the highways and byways to view the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21. The moon will block the sun along a narrow band through 14 states — including Kansas and Missouri. The eclipse begins around 11:40 a.m., with totality just after 1 p.m.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

It's been a year since the Kansas City Council approved $7 million in funding for projects in the 18th and Vine district, such as stabilizing historic buildings and adding new streetscaping. On Wednesday, city officials provided a progress report. 

Hickok Cole Architects

What do artists in the Kansas City metropolitan area want when it comes to space? What are the top creative space priorities? 

To find out, Artspace, a nonprofit real estate developer, conducted a regional arts market study from October 2016 to January 2017. A total of 515 artists and 101 arts organizations or creative businesses responded to the online survey. 

Julie Denesha / KCUR 89.3

The future of the Kansas City International Airport has been talked about for years — in public hearings and forums, as well as meetings of the airport terminal advisory group, airport committee, and the Kansas City Council.

Thursday could mark a crucial turning point for what's expected to be a $1 billion project. 

Jeremy Enlow / Van Cliburn International Piano Competition

The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition has been described as the Olympics for pianists. It's a grueling process to even make the cut. 

This year, nearly 300 pianists applied, 146 were selected for live screening auditions, and 30 were invited to Fort Worth, Texas, in May. And then the competition gets underway: 17 days, with four elimination rounds, and millions of people watching around the world

Courtesy Mark Montgomery

For three decades, Kansas City singer/songwriter Mark Montgomery has played guitar, bass, and harmonica in blues and jazz bands — and he's also a beekeeper

Montgomery spoke with Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix about his latest album, the first on his own Love Honey label, called "Difficult Man."

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

The American Jazz Museum still has about $150,000 in outstanding vendor bills. That’s despite catching up on payments to the musicians who played at the Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival over Memorial Day weekend.

courtesy Kansas City Zoo

Misting fans, chilled pools, ice treats and air conditioning. It's what a lot of people turn to in the summer in Kansas City — and so do the caretakers of the animals at the Kansas City Zoo.  

During the summer months, many of the animals are more active in the mornings when it's cooler. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

After months of stops and starts, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art now has the go ahead for the first phase of its master plan. On Thursday, the Kansas City City Council approved a zoning change for the museum's 29-acre property. 

Outdoor sculptures will take the place of the tennis courts of the former Rockhill Tennis Club along Rockhill Road. The clubhouse will be available for sale as a residence. The museum will expand offices, as needed, to the four historic houses it owns along 45th Street. 

John Abbott / Smoke Sessions Records

For jazz saxophonist Bobby Watson, writing songs is easier than it used to be. 

"Because I know who I am, and I accept who I am," Watson told Up to Date host Steve Kraske. "So when I'm writing a song, I'm not really trying to get outside of who I am."

Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3

Financial woes at the American Jazz Museum aren't sitting well with city and state officials. 

"I'm concerned, like a lot of other people, about what's going on," says Missouri Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. "I don't think we ought to ignore this, ignore the problems, or dismiss them lightly."

Brian Collins

Back in William Shakespeare's day, outdoor theaters like the Globe in London could accommodate about 3,000 people. More than 400 years later in Kansas City, crowds in June and July hauled blankets and lawn chairs to pack into Southmoreland Park for the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival's production of Hamlet

CJ Janovy / KCUR 89.3

Update: This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include a city funding update. 

After experiencing "a cash flow issue" following the inaugural Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival over Memorial Day weekend, officials with the American Jazz Museum say all performers have been paid — after some musicians complained on social media earlier this week.

A. Hagerman Photography

Blues musician Patrick Recob has played with lots of touring bands, and recorded with some of them, over the last 25 years. And, for nearly a decade, he was the bassist for Lee McBee and The Confessors. 

Last month marked the release of Recob's debut solo album. Fish Fry host Chuck Haddix talked to Recob about the new release called Perpetual Luau

CHUCK HADDIX: "Well, how did the luau theme come in?"

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

“Makers” is a series that shares stories of why people are compelled to create something with their own hands. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

“Makers” is a series that shares stories of why people are compelled to create something with their own hands. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

“Makers” is a series that shares stories of why people are compelled to create something with their own hands. 

Brian Collins / Heart of America Shakespeare Festival

So what's it like going from a blockbuster hit like Netflix's House of Cards to returning to your hometown to perform outdoors in a Shakespeare play?

That was Central Standard host Gina Kaufmann's question for actor Nathan Darrow on the day Hamlet opened in Southmoreland Park, presented by the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

The 2.2 mile Kansas City Streetcar route from Union Station to the River Market opened just over a year ago. To date, the line has completed just over 2 million trips with an average of 5,860 riders a day in 2016. 

And now they're looking into expansion options to the south — and the north.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

After coming to an agreement with its neighbors about a re-zoning request, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has now received approval from the Kansas City Plan Commission. 

Last year, such approval seemed uncertain. The Nelson wanted to turn houses it owned along 45th Street into administration and staff offices, and reuse some of the former Rockhill Tennis Club site as a sculpture garden and for overflow parking. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The University of Missouri system is facing a $101 million budget crunch due to cuts in state funding, as well as declining enrollment at the campus in Columbia. 

UM System President Mun Choi on Friday presented plans for the budget in fiscal year 2018.

For UMKC, proposed cuts could mean $15.4 million less in spending and the loss of 51 positions — including four faculty members from the Theatre Department and a $400,000 decrease in the department's budget. 

Michael St Maur Sheil

The National World War I Museum and Memorial plans several events, along with free admission for veterans and active-duty military personnel, to celebrate Monday's national holiday recognizing the men and women who've died in service to the U.S. military. 

"For a lot of families, it's really a significant moment to honor those who have served and especially those whose lives were lost," says Matthew Naylor, the museum's president and CEO.

KCPT

After more than 30 years at KCPT, Randy Mason, executive producer of cultural affairs, has been let go. KCUR has learned that three other staffers were also told their jobs were cut.

courtesy ArtsKC

After conducting a national search, ArtsKC, the regional arts council, on Monday announced a new president and CEO: Dana Knapp. 

Since January 1, 2017, Knapp has served as the interim leader of ArtsKC, a nonprofit arts organization that "promotes, supports and advocates for the arts across a five-county region." According to ArtsKC, Knapp "begins her new role immediately."

Davin Watne

Walk into Haw Contemporary in the Stockyards district of the West Bottoms, and in one gallery, artist Davin Watne has built a 30-foot long wall. There are nearly 40 paintings in a collage — small and large, clamped together — stretching the length of the room.

The exhibition, Picture the Wall, is, in part, an artistic response to Donald Trump’ s call for a wall along the U.S. and Mexico border during the 2016 presidential campaign. And it carries on a long tradition of, as Watne puts it, "oil on canvas as a means to convince" the public. 

Walt Whitaker / Office of the Secretary of State

A new executive order on Thursday will establish a commission to "review alleged voter fraud and voter suppression," according to news reports. 

President Donald Trump is expected to name Vice President Mike Pence as Chair and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as Vice Chair,  ABC News reports. 

Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera

Olathe, Kansas, native Scott Conner has performed on North American and European stages. Last month marked Conner's debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Through May 13, Conner plays the police commissioner in a new production of Richard Strauss’s opera, Der Rosenkavalier. One highlight: He shares the stage with opera diva Renée Fleming, who stars in a signature role as the aristocrat, the Marschallin.

Laura Spencer / KCUR 89.3

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed the American Health Care Act, the GOP-backed bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. 

House Republicans approved the plan by a narrow margin, 217 - 213. The measure goes next to the Senate.

In the waning hours before the vote, Indivisible Kansas City, a local branch of the national movement, organized a protest outside Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder's office in downtown Overland Park, Kansas. 

Joseph Morris / Wikimedia Commons

This post was updated at 1:38 p.m. on Thursday.

The House of Representatives voted Thursday to approve the American Health Care Act, touted by the GOP and President Donald Trump as a better alternative to President Obama's signature health care effort, the Affordable Care Act. The final vote, 217 - 213. All 193 Democrats in the House, joined by 20 Republicans, opposed the bill. 

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